This is a film about discrimination and greed and about what happens when keeping up appearances is no longer necessary. The first thing you notice about Sarnia, Ontario is the smell. The noxious aroma of gasoline, melting asphalt, and rotten eggs boldly crawls up your nostrils and invades your body. That smell is the Chemical Valley where 40% of Canada’s petrochemical industry is located. The Chemical Valley is responsible for the manufacture of gasoline, plastic, cosmetics, pesticides, synthetic rubber and many other products that society has come to rely on. In fact, it has been estimated that in 2013 the Canadian petrochemical industry will generate around $24 billion in sales. These plants and refineries operate nonstop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What’s even more outrageous than the stench, is the fact that a chain link fence is the only thing that separates the Chemical Valley from the First Nations Reserve called Aamjiwnaang; a community of around 1,000 people. This small aboriginal community has reported an alarming rate of cases of cancer and miscarriages—more than the national average. And yet the government shows no interest in directing studies to determine the extent of the health risk that the Chemical Valley poses to the people of Aamjiwnaang.
One of the biggest challenges faced by the community is the effect of chemical leaks from the plants and refineries. Many of these leaks go unreported. In fact, only in the first half of 2013, there were three leaks of hydrogen sulfide. One leak in January sent many children from the local daycare to the hospital. They were misdiagnosed as having a cold simply because there had been no communication about the leak until four hours had gone by.
The worst part is that there’s evidence that in 1966 a middle class white community was evacuated from that very area because of health and safety concerns. However the Aamjiwnaang continue to live in the same place under the same conditions, almost 50 years later.
When a small child sees the toxic waste being belched out of into the sky and innocently makes up a rhyme that says “the more clouds in the sky, the more people will die,” it gets you thinking. How many people have to die before action is taken?